“Doing a simple back-of-the-envelope calculation, I realized that the performance issues with BMC Service Desk Express were costing Danone well over €100,000 each year in lost productivity. It was clear that 4me was the only solution that would be able to give us the performance improvement we were looking for”.

With around 100,000 employees in over 100 countries, Danone is the world’s number 1 producer of fresh dairy products, the world’s number 2 in bottled water and baby nutrition, and Europe’s number 1 in medical nutrition. IS hubs have been set up as shared services organizations to provide information services across the different businesses. Each hub takes care of all of Danone’s businesses within a specific geography. In Belgium and the Netherlands, for example, Danone has several large companies that produce and sell dairy products, bottled water, baby nutrition and medical nutrition. Even though these are separate legal entities, they all receive their IT support from a single hub. One advantage that this hub structure provides is improved economies of scale. After the individual IT departments of the different businesses were grouped together in a hub, the specialists could specialize further in the things they were good at, while other specialists who originated from other IT departments took over the support for services that did not get the attention they deserved in the past.

The service desks of the different businesses were also consolidated, making it easier to plan the shifts and allowing the support hours to be extended. Merging the IT departments of a geography also encouraged standardization of the applications that are used within the business.

Enabling the Hubs

4me was not brought in to support the hub structure. Danone had already deployed BMC Service Desk Express (SDE) successfully to many of its IT departments around the globe. This worked well, except that the IT specialists who were located far from where SDE was hosted, suffered from slow application response times. In addition, SLA reporting between the hubs, competence centers and external service providers was essentially non-existent. “Doing a simple back-of-the-envelope calculation, I realized that the performance issues were costing Danone well over €100,000 each year in lost productivity,” explains Michael Kollig, Danone EMEA CIO. “This realization prompted us to look for an alternative. After evaluating the usual IT service management applications, we concluded that none of them were capable of significantly improving the response times we were experiencing. We had already heard about 4me, but were hesitant to consider a solution from a vendor that had only been around for a year.”

 “And there was another thing we were concerned about,” continues Michael Kollig. “4me is only provided as a cloud service. At the time we had very little experience with cloud services.”

“Still, we had to fix the slow response times if we were going to be successful in rolling out our corporate ITSM service to the hubs that were still working in isolation,” adds Aurelian Sin, IS/IT Director Danone South East Europe. “We decided to give 4me the opportunity to prove itself. We asked for all the data that was stored in our BMC Service Desk Express environment to be imported into 4me. There were well over 1 million records. After that we had our specialists log in from 4 different continents to see if they could bring 4me to its knees. They spent about 15 minutes generating requests and complex changes. Templates were used to do this as quickly as possible. Within these 15 minutes, more tickets were generated than we normally register in 1 full day. 4me passed this stress test with flying colors. The response times remained excellent.

“It was clear that 4me was the only solution that would be able to give us the performance improvement we were looking for, but we were still worried about having our ITSM service in the cloud and doing business with a vendor which at that point was essentially a start-up.” To address these concerns Michael Kollig and Aurelian Sin flew out to California together and spent two full days with 4me’s management team. Our discussions were focused on mitigating the risks of having information from Danone and its employees in the cloud and ensuring that the 4me organization was financially strong enough, and technically experienced enough, to guarantee an uninterrupted delivery of the 4me service. “After the meeting we were truly impressed with the in-depth knowledge of the 4me’s management team. Everything in their organization is structured to ensure continuity. This starts with the infrastructure on which the 4me service is hosted and is evident even in the way they interact with their enterprise customers to ensure that 4me continues to evolve in a direction that delivers quantifiable value,” recalls Michael Kollig.

“At the time it started to become obvious that we had to get comfortable with the cloud if we were to remain relevant to our businesses. The more we thought about it, the more convinced we became that a rollout of 4me would provide the ideal opportunity to gain experience with the cloud without directly affecting the business.”


To further minimize the risks, Danone decided to start with a pilot implementation. The hub responsible for the businesses in the United Kingdom and Ireland was selected for this pilot, as they were the most advanced and most demanding from an ITIL perspective. During the pilot several technical challenges were quickly tackled, such as converting the existing requests from the Service Desk Express (SDE) application, Single Sign-On, Self Service support for users still on Internet Explorer 7, and an integration between 4me and SDE to allow continued collaboration with specialists of Danone’s IT Competence Center in Poland.

Phased Approach

Following the successful pilot in February 2012, the other hubs were allowed to migrate from SDE to 4me. A phased approach was used to, again, minimize the risks. A 1-day kickoff was organized for each hub roughly one month before they were scheduled to start using 4me.

During a kickoff the hub would explain the specifics of their organization and the standard project plan would be adjusted accordingly. The data needed to populate the new 4me account of the hub would then be reviewed. Most of the focus was placed on the definition of the hub’s service catalog. The service catalog is at the core of 4me. Defining the service level targets, responsibilities, support hours, etc. correctly was important for a smooth start.

After the kickoff the hub would prepare the data for upload into 4me. The data would first be loaded in a sandbox environment to allow the hub to check it. Once approved, the data would be transferred to the hub’s production account.

In addition to the data population, the Self Service environment for the endusers would be translated as needed. The templates for the email notifications for the end-users would also be translated if they were not yet available in all of the languages that the hub supports. Configuring Single Sign-On was also a standard step in the preparation for go-live.

At the peak, a total of 70 training instances were available with data tailored specifically for Danone. Service desk analysts and IT specialists could use the instances to train themselves using online training modules.

Different hubs preferred different training approaches. Some delivered the training in a classroom setting. Others gave their people a choice: they could attend the classroom sessions, or they could complete the training online. Some provided classroom training only for the more advanced problem, change and configuration management courses. Some hubs were so large that a train-the-trainer approach was used. This allowed multiple sessions to be held concurrently at different sites.


4me is not a toolbox. “This made us feel really uncomfortable at first,” says Aurelian Sin, “but when we look back at the endless customization work we used to do in SDE, we realize now that this is actually a major plus. Building such advanced business logic as 4me provides out of the box is simply unrealistic even for a large enterprise like Danone. Having all the business logic pre-configured saved us, and continues to save us, a lot of time.”

4me quickly became very popular. One by one, the organizations that had not wanted to use the standard ITSM application, now decided to join in. In addition, the organizations that had been using Service Desk Express in the past, started to implement additional ITIL processes once they had migrated to 4me. This was primarily because 4me makes processes like problem and change management so much easier for all people involved.

Value drivers

The project at Danone created value on the following value drivers.

Optimise IT Costs
Optimise IT Costs

The incredible performance of the application reduced our waiting time in working with the tooling drastically.

Demonstrate Transparency
Demonstrate Transparency

By using the same processes and tooling in all regio's the performance of all region's and hub's became more transparant.